Here are #10things that this nanny wished she knew before becoming a nanny. As this is her perspective, many things she shares in this piece are valid and a critical part of being a nanny or childcare provider. We really liked her transparency regarding her experiences and wanted to share them with our readers.
1.) Some parents will expect you to clean their house in addition to taking care of their kids.
If the kids are napping while I’m at a house, I don’t feel comfortable just sitting there the whole time, so I offer to help with the baby bottles or do the baby’s laundry. But one mom would literally leave me a list. She would ask me to hang-dry her clothes, put a load in the wash, cook full meals, and vacuum the whole house upstairs and downstairs. It got a little uncomfortable for me when she asked me to do that, because I’m here all day to work for her kids, not clean her house.
2.) The more you know, the more you get paid.
The pay is pretty much dependent on your education and your experience working with children. I’ve been doing this for six years, and I’ve taken enough college courses in early childhood development to qualify for a teacher’s assistant permit in California, which certifies me to work in a daycare. I also have a para educators license. That certification comes from taking and passing a test for a certain school district, which then allows you to be a teacher’s aide in that school district you applied for it in. It’s worth it to get these certifications because the applications only require a small fee, and you can take the college credits at a community college. I tell parents I have these skills when I’m applying for nannying positions, so I charge what would be considered the higher pay scale for my area. If you’re going to be alone caring for a child for 10 hours a day, the parents want to be confident that their kid isn’t going to be sitting around watching TV. Since they’re not choosing a daycare, they want to be sure you know how to do educational things, like flash cards, reading, or teaching baby sign language.
3.) Being paid under-the-table can have negative consequences.
Nannying is pretty much all under-the-table work, so I rarely file any taxes while I’m working this job. I’ve only paid taxes on the few positions I’ve had in childcare that have allowed me to. Most families that I’ve worked with have paid me under-the-table because if they claim a certain amount that they pay me, then they’ll have to pay taxes on that, and it ends up being a loss for them. The family [I currently work for] and I aren’t too worried about getting caught, though, because this is just how it is for nearly everyone in childcare. I’ve never sat down and thought about [the legality]. But it can be difficult if I go and try to apply for a credit card, loan, or mortgage because it seems like I haven’t been working for a while even though I do make a good income and work a lot of hours. Luckily, I’ve qualified for store credit cards like Kohl’s and worked myself up from there by establishing credit. But larger loans are harder, so I had to get a co-signer for my car. But remember many nanny jobs will pay you in cash, and with that being mentioned, it leads me to #4.
4.) Don’t expect to get insurance through work.
I don’t really go to the doctor ever, because this is not the type of job that usually comes with insurance benefits. I pay for any medical costs out of pocket. Depending on the job my husband has at the time, I can be covered by his health insurance, but it can be a little more expensive so we usually opt out. It can be stressful not having a normal job where they take care of you if something goes wrong, but hopefully I’ll eventually have a job in childcare that does offer those types of benefits. Sometimes a nanny agency can negotiate that for you if you use a nanny agency as a resource to help you with your job search.
5.) You will get more emotionally attached to the kids than you think.
The hardest part of this job is your last day working for a family that no longer needs you. You have to say good-bye to the kids you might have been with since they were 2 months old. You get to see them grow, you see them eat their first real foods, you see them take their first steps, celebrate their first birthday. Whenever it’s my last day with a family, I try not to cry in order to keep it professional. But you just can’t help it when you’re with these kids every day and then all of a sudden, you’re not going to see them anymore.
6.) You will be exposed to the best and worst parts of parenting.
Whenever I get attached to the kids I take care of, I think of how much bigger of a bond it would be and how much more I could do if it were my own kid. It makes me really want to be a parent, so I can have that special bond. But I see the sacrifices parents must make, how much sleep they lose, and how much raising a child costs. I have lots of fun playing with the kids, but I also experience the stress of figuring out what to do with a crying baby or unhappy toddler. Except at the end of the day, I get to go home and have a full night’s sleep, while the parents come home from work and have to take care of their baby all night.
7.) There’s only so much you can do to discipline a child that isn’t yours.
I’ve worked with some kids where everything out of their mouth is no. You try to get them to go to the bathroom, to take a nap, to stop hitting you, and they refuse. I try to deal with it through positive reinforcement, redirecting, giving choices, create boundaries, and sticking to what I say with follow through. But there is only so much I can do. It can’t go any further than that, as losing your temper or having your own melt-down is not part of this job. Most parents will tell me to give them a call if it’s something I can’t handle, but there has been no occasion to do so.
8.) This job will be surprisingly physical.
You’ll have to constantly pick the kids up. Sometimes just because they want to snuggle, sometimes they need to be comforted, sometimes you just have to move them! When I watch twin babies, there are many times I carry them both at the same time, 20 pounds in each arm. Don’t forget that babies, toddlers and school aged kids have a lot of energy, so you’re constantly chasing them around and cleaning up after them all day.
9.) Taking a day off won’t really be an option.
It can be tough being the only employee and having the parents count on you to show up every day so they can go to work. You can’t just wake up in the morning and decide to call in an hour before your shift, because it upsets the day of your nanny family. If I do have to call in sick, the parents need to figure something out within the time of me telling them and when they leave for work. I know it’s hard for them to find a replacement, so I try to take time off when it is planned, usually when the family makes plans of their own.
10.) You will become personally invested in this job.
Being a nanny is more than just a job. There’s a lot of responsibility that comes with it, but you also get to build a special bond with the kids you work with. Once a child has that trust in you, you gain a very important role in his or her life, especially when the parent is not around. And it’s really nice to be able to fill in for parents and have them be comfortable that their kids are being taken care of. I’ve had a few jobs over the years, but I always come back to nannying. Because even with all the different houses I go to, after a little while with the children, it’s like they’re pretty much family.
~Janette is a nanny in the San Francisco area